TAKEAWAY: Put a master of contemporary documentary photography, Steve McCurray, and the last of Kodak’s iconic slide film, Kodachrome and what you get is a one of kind collection of 36 images that immediately gain museum status PLUS: The day I dared photograph Steve McCurray on the way to dinner in Istanbul
Steve McCurry’s most famous photograph, Afghan Girl
End of an era: Kodak has discontinued his iconic slide film, Kodachrome
Mention the name Steve McCurry and one of his photos comes to mind, a global icon: it is the photo titled Afghan Girl, which he took of Sharbat Gula, the girl with the haunting and unforgettable green eyes staring at the photographer and the world. Gula was living as a refugee in Pakistan, during the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when she was photographed. The image brought her recognition when it was featured on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
The photo of the Afghan Girl is representative of the type of images that we come to expect from McCurry. This is how he explains his philosophy and style :
“Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape that you could call the human condition.”
The photo of the Afghan Girl brought McCurry worldwide recognition and added to his many awards.
However, today, McCurry is in the news for another reason:
When McCurry heard that Kodak was planning to discontinue production of its iconic slide film, Kodachrome, he spoke with Kodak’s marketing people, and persudaded Kodak give him him the right to use the very last roll that came off the assembly line in Rochester, New York. They readily agreed.
So, recently, McCurry loaded his Nikon F6 with the 36-exposure spool and headed east, to use this historic last roll of film doing what he does best: capturing the human condition. He recently donated prints from that roll to the George Eastman House.
And Vanity Fair recently published a slideshow on their website that shows almost every frame from McCurry’s last roll. You can view the slideshow here.
McCurry recently donated prints from that roll to the George Eastman House.
At a more personal level
I had the privilege to meet Steve McCurry at the +1T Design Days conference in Istanbul, Turkey in 2010. We both presented keynote speeches to the more than 300 students and professionals who gather for the annual event.
One evening, on the way to dinner at one of the islands surrounding the scenic city of Istanbul, I asked Steve if I could take a picture of him with my iPhone. The affable Steve said that, of course, it was OK, and just when I prepared myself to take his photo——rather daring of me to photograph such a master photographer with an iPhone—-he turned around and started taking pictures of me taking his photo using his own mobile telephone. See the images here.
It was one of those moments that you never forget, and I am glad the photographers from Zaman newspaper were there to capture it for me.